What Companies Can Learn from Artists to Improve InnovationShare
Creativity is the driving force of innovation. Without creativity, innovation might be just luck. And since creativity plays such a major role in the process of innovation, we might as well learn from the professionals whose life is creative by definition.
Business organizations and artists… what can they possibly have in common? Well, the answer to this question heavily depends on the type of business you are running. Or, to be more accurate, on the type of organization you aim to create.
If your target is to create an innovative company, you have come to the right place, because today I would like to talk about three aspects of artistic creativity that are also important pillars of any innovative organization.
Raw Materials and Imagination
Artists are using their senses all the time. They observe the world around them, and continuously collect raw material which they use later in their work.
For an artist, anything can be raw material. Artists are curious about anything they come across. They absorb so many things, and somehow some of these inputs are used later in the creative process.
Artists don't filter or block anything in advance. They don't go out looking for something specific. Of course, not all the inputs are eventually used. In many cases, it is impossible to track down the ones that were used, just like you can't always identify the ingredients of a great dish. But that is not important - all ingredients eventually affect it.
Whether this collecting activity is conscious or not, it plays a major part in the creation of art. The artist's senses are always on. And if you want to innovate, that is exactly what you should do.
If you start compiling raw material for imagining the next big solution only when you face a problem, you are already too late. You might have walked by a key ingredient to that future solution just now. Come to think of it, you might have just passed by an insight which can help you define a problem no one else thought of. And as any innovator knows, that is a real treasure.
Of course just keeping your eyes open and recording mechanically everything you see will not do the trick. Collecting raw material must be served with a large dose of imagination to begin recognizing the potential of what you see.
Creating a World
When we read, hear, or look at an artwork, we usually focus on that specific item. In most cases, we don't see it as part of a sequence of pieces created by the artist. However, in many cases, the artwork is in fact merely a small corner of an entire world created by the artist.
When artists create new worlds, they are free to play with any aspect of them: from the landscape to their timeline, from the laws of physics to how people feel and talk to each other. It doesn't have to be a science fiction, fantasy or a surreal work. It can seem very much like the world we all know, but it is still the artist's world to create and control.
Creating a world of your own, enables you to define the rules. You can expand it, change it, or refine it later - it is yours to play with. It creates explicit boundaries, but you can open as many gates in these boundaries as you wish. It makes your creation consistent, holistic, and yet not limited in any sense.
Consider Picasso's Cubism period. While you can dive into each of his paintings as if it is isolated, they are clearly part of a world he created - the world as he saw it at that time. This world, with its new sets of very different physical rules, enabled Picasso to play, explore, surprise his audience, and maybe even himself. And he achieved that within the boundaries he created for himself. Can you see how much more powerful this approach can be compared to creating random works, each with a completely different set of "rules" (which in practice means no rules at all)?
The concept of creating a world is very much applicable to business innovation as well. Sure, there can be isolated, sporadic innovations. But the most innovative organizations have a coherent story leading them, paved with numerous creations. They have created a world with a clear set of rules, which they sometimes knowingly break to expand and explore new territories.
Google, for example, has created a world in which everything is data, everything is searchable, and as a result, everything we think of can be retrieved even before we are asking for it explicitly. Maybe it's not all feasible just yet, but almost anything Google does is part of this world they are creating.
And the same applies to Amazon, Apple, and other companies which are gradually shaping the world we live in and aligning it with the world they envision.
Defining Who You Are
If you ask an artist what defines them, you might hear different answers. But deep inside, most artists define themselves by their art. Art is an integral part of the artist. It is not just "something they do" - it is who they are.
In most cases, Art is inseparable from the artist. It is the core of their being.
In contrast, for many companies innovation is just something they feel they have to do to meet their business goals. Not that there is anything wrong with meeting business goals, but if innovation is just an arbitrary mean to do that, it is by definition not what defines your organization.
If creativity and innovation are not part of the fabric of your organization - part of its DNA - most likely they will not be groundbreaking or last for long.
Like art is for the artist, innovation cannot be managed as a series of random activities or events. It must flow in the organizational veins 24/7. It must beat in the hearts of each and every employee. It must be alive. You cannot "activate" Innovation at command. It must be present. All the time.
I know this may sound very "spiritual." Indeed, there's no one concrete thing you can do to make this happen. It is hard and continuous work. But being aware to that, and continuously working on changing your DNA at all levels of the organization, is essential.
Creativity is the driving force of innovation. Without creativity, innovation might be just luck.
And since creativity plays such a major role in the process of innovation, we might as well learn from the professionals whose life is creative by definition.
Continually collecting raw material and imagining what you can create from it, creating a world as opposed to just isolated events of innovation, and making creativity and innovations part of your DNA, are all essential for your company. These traits have tave the potential of changing every aspect of your organization - not just the next product you develop - just like they change of the artist's life.
Using seempli Lidor works with individuals, teams, and organizations seeking to develop, master, and apply creativity.